Page 772 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 April 2014

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recommendations, and supporting in principle one recommendation. The government recognises that ongoing improvement is vital in all areas of service provision. The two key areas involved in this case, mental health and corrections, provide services to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. In providing those services, the officers and decision-makers involved must balance the safety and interests of the detainee with the safety of staff, other patients and the community at large. I am proud of the standard of service delivery in this very difficult and complex area and confident that the staff involved in this case demonstrated the requisite level of dedication and professionalism.

While the government supports or supports in principle all of the commissioner’s recommendations, and has substantially implemented them, the government does not agree with all findings made by the commissioner. When reflecting on circumstances in hindsight, it can be difficult to appreciate fully the immediate challenges and pressures associated with an event such as this. Decisions made in a corrections management context are complex and require careful balancing of competing and sometimes seemingly conflicting requirements. I am confident that ACT Corrective Services officers made the right decisions in the circumstances. I am confident that an appropriate balance was found between the detainee’s right to humane treatment while in custody and the need to ensure the safety of the detainee, staff and the wider community whilst ensuring the detainee’s secure detention.

Improvements are already underway in the context of the mental health act review, the new standard operating procedures and other collaboration between ACT Corrective Services and ACT Health.

The response supports in principle recommendation 6, which recommends changing the mental health act to allow transfer of custody from Corrective Services to ACT Health when a detainee is transferred to a mental health facility. The response notes that mechanisms allowing the transfer of custody will need to consider issues of security and public safety in the context of the security arrangements and infrastructure available at approved mental health facilities.

There is a reasonable community expectation that people lawfully detained into custody by order of a court because of a crime or alleged crime be detained securely as long as lawful authority for their detention exists. The government is separately working towards this objective through the establishment of a purpose-built secure mental health facility, and on balance prefers to align timing of transfer of custody arrangements with that facility becoming available.

Continuous improvement is critical for any service delivery area, particularly where our clients may be vulnerable. This report invites us to reflect on what we do and how we do it—to make sure that our practices and procedures meet the highest possible standards, as our community expects.

I reiterate my thanks to the Health Services Commissioner for her considered report and the opportunity she has provided. While the report highlights areas for improvements, the government considers that the decisions made in this case were the right ones in the circumstances.

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